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Columns : In My Sights

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Remember, even if your dog can love you back, your agency never will.

December 23, 2013  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

Anyone who knows anything about my wife, the Sarge, and me is absolutely sure we are "dog people." If you are a "cat fancier," don't write me to extol their virtues or complain about anti-feline sentiment; this article just isn't about cats, OK?

Anyway, it seems a neuroscientist at Emory University was sitting around wondering if his dog actually "loved" him or just was dependent on him, and he decided to look into the dog's brain to see if he could correlate the dog brain with the human one.

Obviously the good scientist was able to draw some pretty dramatic conclusions, or he would never have bothered to write a new book called "“How Dogs Love Us."” Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, found that not only does the dog's brain show the same stimulus we find in the human brain where we might say "love" is located, but your dog remembers you specifically. I must confess I had the image of Forrest Gump telling Jenny, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is!" while reading this part of the book.

OK, so I am feeling a little better about feeding my otherwise nearly useless dog who sits, as I write, staring at the front door in what has apparently become his surveillance point in our house. What my dog actually does for me, then, is reciprocate emotion for emotion. Maybe the inter-species bond so unique to man and dogs is due to some serious hard hard-wired brain issues between them and us, and our original union was more than just the coincidence of two species migrating after the same game.

For most of you the fact that your dog actually loves you doesn't change the way you feel about your dog, or even your cat for that matter. You get some affection, some response to your emotion and care, and that makes you healthier and stronger, lowers your blood pressure, calms your spirit; these are all good things we get from our pets, not to mention our loved ones.

But what about loving something that can't love you back? Worse, something that will seem to act upon you, perhaps negatively, regardless of your emotional commitment? I am talking about your agency. I get a lot of feedback when I tell folks at my seminars, "Love your God, your family, what you do, but do not love your agency."

"What?" they cry. "Do you mean I should hate my agency?" No, but do not love it. Love is an intense emotional investment and all the MRIs in the world cannot show you where in your agency's brain it can love you back; it can't. In fact, it is not an adult perspective for you to expect it to.

If you love something, you expect love back. When you get that day off without pay for missing court for the third time in a year, you may come up with all the excuses and finish with "Besides, I love this agency!"

First, it isn't your chief's or sheriff's job to love you; they are paid to run an agency. And second, the social contract is, you give your agency your duty, honor, loyalty, courage, strength, and selfless service and it gives you a paycheck and retirement, period.

Unfair? You bet. Life isn't fair, remember? Long ago, my psychological mentor and hero, Kevin Gilmartin, author of the great book "Emotional Survival," taught me to put my priorities in the right order and save my love for the ones who could love me back.

Being overly emotionally committed to your agency only leads to heartbreak. Unrequited love is one of the toughest emotional hits a human can face and therefore I ask you to rethink your relationship with your agency and those who work with you.

What we must do is never lose faith with, or stop caring about, the humanity of law enforcement. As part of the brotherhood and sisterhood of warriors, we are all contracted to our agencies with the same oath to live up to the high standards of our profession, to honor our commitment to service, and understand that our agency owes us only a paycheck and whatever benefits are part of our employee contract.

All this reminds me of an unhappy fellow who approached me after a seminar and asked what answers I had for him. He didn't believe in God, or have a family, and he hated his job. I just smiled and said, "Get a dog."

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

RedHalo @ 12/30/2013 5:59 PM

Great article Dave! Never loved my agency, but I do care a lot about the ones I serve with, and those that I supervise. I also had to learn to separate the job and focus more on my faith and family, because this job will one day end.

RolloThomassi @ 12/31/2013 8:48 AM

It should always be about the people. Care about them, even when you may not particularly like them or the things they do, and you'll be happier.

Butch Arenal @ 12/31/2013 6:53 PM

With all due respect to an accomplished author, what a terribly jaded and cynical perspective. In almost three decades of law enforcement, I have found just the opposite. Passion and love for the profession, our people, and yes - even our agency and what it represents to our community - is the only true way for a dedicated group of professionals within an organization to achieve uncommon results and true greatness collectively. It's not easy to achieve, but when you bring it all together it's one of the most rewarding and gratifying leadership accomplishments in the law enforcement profession.

Sgtbuck187 @ 1/3/2014 4:34 PM

See how much they "love" and cherish you. If you drop dead, retire, or embarrass the administration; the next day, somebody will be out there driving "your" beat car and the department won't miss a beat...or you. Hopefully, the same won't be said by your family.

Sgtbuck187 @ 1/3/2014 4:34 PM

See how much they "love" and cherish you. If you drop dead, retire, or embarrass the administration; the next day, somebody will be out there driving "your" beat car and the department won't miss a beat...or you. Hopefully, the same won't be said by your family.

SnowCop @ 2/10/2014 4:14 AM

I couldn't agree more. Enjoy the job, like your agency, but always remember that no matter how much blood sweat and tears you put into an organization, they will never repay you with the same dedication. It's a hard lesson to be learned. I have 12 years in Law Enforcement and I still sometimes think that they agencies will change, but I always get a dose of reality.

Jim @ 2/13/2014 6:34 AM

That is so true... We all have to take care of ourselves. That includes knowing the correct direction to our own happiness... Hard Work, selfless service & duty are important skills for any line of work, however like anywhere working. They only care about what, & how well you perform for them, however I must add one important note. In any line of work dealing with the care, protection, & freedom of our people. . . Never forget that we as role models. Must put the safety, welfare, & care to whom we are suppose to protect. Not to do more harm, thinking about promotions, or pleasing the chain of command (over what is morally justified to the very ones we serve). Without the people's lives in mind, we are no better then those breaking the law... I know I went off subject little, however no one would ever be unhappy with a life Loving & protecting our own. Those that do, know they are loved by the people. Happiness finds them. Do it for the People not the Agency... Do what's right

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